Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Falcons Avenge Week 14 Shutout Loss to Panthers

Was Arthur Blank excited? I'd say YES!!

The Carolina Panthers are no longer undefeated! The Atlanta Falcons SNAPPED the Panthers' 18-game, regular season winning streak with a 20-13 victory on Sunday, rounding out the holiday weekend on a high note.

Here's how it all went down:

1st Quarter:
Cam Newton's touchdown in the First Quarter

Carolina began this contest on offense. On the first play from scrimmage, RB Fozzy Whittaker broke off a 16-yard run. Four plays later, QB Cam Newton connected with TE Greg Olsen for 15 yards, setting up a Panthers' first down inside the Falcons territory.

Carolina continued to move the ball with ease; and Newton capped the 11-play drive with an eight-yard touchdown run. Needless to mention, a "dab" from the fifth-year quarterback ensued the scoring scamper.

Although it was early, it seemed as if the Falcons defense was due for another long day.

Matt Ryan first down scramble late in the First Quarter

On the Falcons first offensive possession, QB Matt Ryan's unit displayed the "grit" that head coach Dan Quinn preaches to them.

After a rocky start that saw the Falcons face a 3rd and 15 deep inside their own territory, a Panthers penalty gave Atlanta a fresh set of downs. The Dirty Birds took advantage of the penalty and drove the ball down to the four yard line before the first quarter expired.

2nd Quarter:
Devonta Freeman's game tying touchdown

On the first play of the quarter,  Falcons Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman found the end-zone on the first play of the second quarter. The four-yard run was his 11th rushing touchdown of the season, giving him the most rushing scores in the NFL.

Both Atlanta and Carolina traded scoreless drives to end a low-scoring first half.

HALFTIME: Falcons 7, Panthers 7

3rd Quarter: 

Shayne Graham's missed field goal in the 3rd quarter

 Atlanta began the second half with the ball and a chance to take the lead.

Matt Ryan and co. conducted a decent drive that included a big 25-yard catch and run by WR Julio Jones. However, the drive stalled inside the Carolina 30 yard line.

Kicker Shayne Graham came on to the field to attempt a 43-yard field goal. Graham's kick didn't even stand a chance at going through the uprights as it appeared to be blocked; however replay revealed that the kick wasn't touched by an opposing player. Simply, the kick was atrocious.

The Panthers took advantage of the missed field goal, drove down the field, and added three points of their own to earn a 10-7 advantage over Atlanta with 5:26 left in the 3rd quarter.

Julio Jones touchdown to give Atlanta a 14-10 lead

Following the Carolina field goal, the Falcons got the ball back and were in need of a score and some momentum.

On the fifth play of this vital drive, the offense faced a 3rd and 13 from their own 30 yard line. Matt Ryan took the shotgun snap, dropped back (and then steppe up) in the pocket, and rolled to his left. The eight-year veteran quickly set his feet and launched a 52-yard bomb towards Julio Jones. The former Alabama stand-out elevated over Carolina's two-time All-pro LB Luke Kuechly and snatched the football out of the air. Jones turned around and sprinted towards the end-zone completing a game-changing 70-yard touchdown play.

Atlanta headed into the final 15:00 minutes with a 14-10 lead.

4th Quarter

After forcing another Panther's punt, the Falcons offense had a chance to extend their fourth quarter lead. However, Matt Ryan failed to catch a shotgun snap on 3rd and 10 leading to a fumble that Carolina recovered. Four plays later, the Panthers kicked a field goal bringing them within one point.

Matt Ryan and co. bounced back from the turnover with a 10-play, 5:36 drive which Shayne Graham capped off with a field goal.

Atlanta's first stop against Carolina after the Two Minute Warning

The Falcons held a 17-13 lead with 2:23 remaining in the contest. Carolina turned the ball over on downs on the ensuing possession but received one final chance with 1:30 left
Shayne Graham's career long field goal gives Atlanta a 20-13 lead

Although, Shayne Graham converted a career high 54 yard field goal in between those possessions giving the Falcons a seven-point advantage.
Vic Beasley game clinching play

On the second play of Carolina's last-chance drive, Falcons rookie pass rusher Vic Beasley reached out with his left hand and stripped the football away from Cam Newton. DE Adrian Clayborn recovered the fumble putting the exclamation point on a fantastic game.

FINAL: Falcons 20, Panthers 13


Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) celebrates his touchdown with Atlanta Falcons corner-back Robert Alford (23) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Matt Ryan completed 23 of his 30 pass attempts for 306 yards. This is his first 300+ passing yard performance since week nine.

The Falcons Pro Bowlers had big day as well. Devonta Freeman had 90 all-purpose yards and a touchdown; while Juilo Jones racked up 178 receiving yards and a touchdown. Jones now has a Falcons franchise record of 1,722 receiving yards this season which shatters his previous record of 1,593.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) celebrates his touchdown with Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (23) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Long-time Falcons wide out Roddy White had his second-best game of the 2015 season garnering 67 yards on five catches.

Despite the victory, the Falcons are eliminated from playoff contention because the Minnesota Vikings beat the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football. Atlanta still has a chance to walk away with a winning record as they host the New Orleans Saints next Sunday.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It Feels Good to Win Again

Relief isn't the word that comes to mind when talking about the Falcons' win last Sunday. Yeah, it was against the closely-related Jacksonville Jaguars but the Falcons have little room to be picky for a win. It kinda feels like Atlanta is back on top of the sporting world but there isn't much to solidify that belief.

The Falcons six game losing skid was strictly due to team meltdowns as a whole. But the win last week should give a boost in confidence for both players and coaches.

During the game, Julio Jones set the franchise record for receptions in a season, breaking the record that was previously held by his teammate and team legend Roddy White.

One of the best things about the game was that the Falcons finally found a nice rhythm on offense that was none-existing in their 6-game losing streak.

It wasn't all the way pretty, but sloppy and undisciplined play by the Jaguars was major in their loss to the Falcons; and Blake Bortles knows that best when he was intercepted by Kemal Ishmael before the end of the first half. Not to mention that Ishmael was stepping in for a injured William Moore.

Devonta Freeman emerged again with a total 101 all-purpose yards (56 rushing and 45 receiving) on 32 touches throughout the game.

With a more improved offensive line, the one-two punch of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman will be fun to watch in later years.

Matt Ryan finished the game pretty well completing 22 of 35 passes for 246 yards with a touchdown and one interception.
It wasn't a dominant stand for Ryan but a good one to build off on.

As far as the defense goes, the Falcons gave up 357 yards with only one takeaway. To some light, the Falcons did record two sacks during the game.

It was confidence building win, but it still feels good to see the Falcons with a W by their name.